- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

Growing up in Germantown, Chris Kelley dreamed of wearing a Washington Redskins uniform. His fantasy was fulfilled this weekend but not in the way Kelley or those who have followed his football career envisioned.

The former prep star at Seneca Valley High School was not among the 255 players chosen in last month’s NFL Draft. He was only invited to rookie minicamp this weekend at Redskin Park on a tryout basis, along with 50 other players.

“It has been a tough road, but I’m glad I’m here,” said Kelley, whose application for a sixth college season because of two years lost to injuries was rejected by the NCAA. “Having all these injuries, it ain’t been easy, I’ll tell you that much. But they’re behind me. If I didn’t go through all that, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’d be working some 9-to-5 job.”

Life was golden for Kelley five years ago. He led Seneca Valley to a 26-0 record during his junior and senior years and was rated one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. But in an all-star game the month before he enrolled at Maryland, Kelley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He did it again the following fall and then ripped up the right one in the spring of 2002.

Kelley recovered in time to be a backup quarterback that fall, but he was moved to safety in the spring of 2003 because Maryland coaches thought he had become best suited for that position. Kelley developed into such a good hitter that, after playing mostly on special teams in 2003, he started last season and tied for second on the team in tackles with linebacker Shawne Merriman, San Diego’s first-round draft pick.

Even if Kelley, who will graduate later this month, isn’t going to be the next great Redskins quarterback as he once hoped, he still was thrilled to be wearing the uniform of his favorite team. And he doesn’t lack for confidence, either.

“A lot of people counted me out two or three years ago, but when I make the team I’m going to prove a lot of people wrong,” Kelley said. “Special teams, safety, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m on the roster. To be a Redskin would be just unbelievable, like a dream come true. Hopefully I can fulfill my dream.”

Kelley and his fellow long shots should find out today whether they earned a contract and an invitation to training camp.

Any player signed would require the Redskins to cut someone from the roster because the team is at the 80-man limit.

“We’re going to go in and analyze the film from the weekend, and then we’ll be making some decisions,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “I appreciated the attitude everybody had. They worked extremely hard. There are some guys we definitely want to bring to camp. When you bring that many guys together, there are always surprises. I think we have some guys here who we think can help our team.”

Gibbs said he enjoyed the first all-rookie camp of his 14 years as a coach.

“There’s a real imbalance [in knowledge],” Gibbs said of camps that combine veterans and rookies. “With these guys, none of them have heard anything. It gives you a better way of evaluating guys. We gave them quite a bit, and you kind of see what sticks. You get a chance to see how quickly guys can assimilate all this stuff.”

Since veterans are required to attend only one minicamp, the Redskins pushed that back to June17-19 to coincide with the end of their offseason conditioning program.

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